No hits, no problem: Pitching bails out Lions

Despite a rocky 4-6 start to their season, the Lions’ softball team ended their Spring Break trip to the Sunshine State on an upswing, winning three out of four as junior hurler Ashley Minervini sparked a pair of combined no-hitters.

Minervini’s first gem came during a five-inning contest with Rhode Island College, where the Lion bats caught fire en route to a 13-0 shutout victory. Minervini struck out five and walked two in four innings of work. She was followed by sophomore Danielle Bertscha, who struck out two for a perfect final inning.

“Of course it gives me tremendous confidence. But obviously my team also did very well offensively,” Minervini said. “It was just working off each other and working off the adrenaline. If I’m throwing a no-hitter and my team’s bats are working well it just shows tremendous chemistry for us to be able to feed off of each other like that early in the season.”

Centerfielder Danielle Hagel led the offensive drive for the Lions, going 3-for-3 with four RBIs and a pair of runs scored, while shortstop Ellen Seavers went 2-for-3 at the plate, crossing home three times. Minervini helped her own cause, driving in two runs while going 2-for-4.

The junior ace earned her second combined no-hitter on March 14, as the Lions mauled Bates College 13-1 on the final weekend of their spring training tour. Minervini again baffled her opponents for four scoreless innings of work, this time striking out two and walking none. Sophomore Jamie Moir gave up no hits, but allowed a walk and an unearned run as she closed out the contest.

Seavers was productive at the plate once again, going 3-for-3, scoring twice while bringing two of her teammates home. Sophomore Colleen Cawley added three RBIs on a 2-for-4 performance at the plate.

The Lions wrapped up their trip with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Bethel College. Rookie pitcher Lauren Fitzsimmons held Bethel to just one run in six innings of work, while the Lions eked out a pair of scores in a game where neither squad could find a rhythm at plate. Seavers only managed to go 1-for-4 at the plate during the team’s final day in Orlando, but the one time she reached safely, the speedy leadoff hitter reached on an error to put the Lions up 1-0.

After Bethel knotted the game at one in the bottom of the third, the Lions scored the go-ahead run in the fifth when Cawley reached on a sacrifice grounder from rookie Katelyn Congilose. Minervini picked up the save in the seventh inning, facing only four batters as she sealed the deal.

While the Lions racked up 30-plus runs in their final four games, poor performances at the plate doomed the College early in the week. During their first four losses, the Lions only managed five runs and were shut out twice. A March 8 contest with Emory University may have been the most disheartening for the Lions during the week, as Emory exploded for four runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the game out of reach.

Later in the week, a slow offensive start forced a stumble against SUNY-Cortland, as the Lions fell 5-4 on March 10. After the Red Dragons jumped out to a 5-0 lead, the Lions rallied for four in the top of the sixth. But a quiet seventh inning spelled the end, as the Dragons held on for the win.

Despite the 4-6 start to their campaign, and a pre-season poll that ranks them fourth in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), the Lions still believe they can have a successful follow-up to a 2008 season that saw them fall just one win shy of an NJAC title.

“We started out rough but as the trip went on I feel like we got alot stronger and we learned alot from each other,” Minervini said. “Although we finished 4-6 we made big strides as far as our team goes, and we improved alot over the course of the week.”

“I honestly see it as a challenge to show people what we are actually capable of,” said sophomore Amy Ullrich. “They might see us a team that fits in the fourth slot, but they are in for a surprise and a run-for-their-money when the playoffs come around.”

James Queally can be reached at queally2@tcnj.edu.